We've all seen it before. The stereotypical scene from a movie with a flushed, sweaty woman writhing in agony and screaming at the top of her lungs. Maybe it's a drama, maybe it's a comedy... but the picture is still the same: childbirth is terrifying! Yes, it's work and moms break a sweat. Yes, it HURTS! I don't think any mother on the planet would argue otherwise. But the truth that often gets left out is that this isn't an unending or unproductive pain that we need to be afraid of; quite the opposite!
Our brains are designed in an incredible way where fear can trigger incredible reactions within our body. Rushes of adrenaline have given people the ability to rush into a burning building to rescue another person, or an instinct to run and hide from on-coming danger. The trouble with fear when it comes to giving birth is that instead of bringing productive results, it can often impede and even bring a complete stop to our body's natural hormonal dance of bringing our little one into the world. With fear comes a "fight or flight" response that increases pain (we've already got enough of that going on, am I right?!?) and tension. This can cause in both mother and babies' heartbeat and blood pressure, slow or even stop contractions, prolong labor, and potentially led to unwanted interventions.
So how does a mom avoid fear while she's in labor?
1. PREPARE! This can look different for every mom, but here's a few ideas. Educate yourself on what to realistically expect. Avoid Hollywood's portrayal of birth and instead start reading empowering birth stories of mom's, just like YOU, who gave birth unhindered, and what tools they used to accomplish it. Watch gentle-birth videos through websites and blogs such as Mama Natural and Love Based Birth.
2. Discover what helps you relax and cope with tension, and then plan on incorporating it into your birthing experience. Maybe it's a particular song/playlist, certain aromas, birth affirmations, even a picture of a place or person you love (ultrasound photo, perhaps?). I've known some moms to even bring along a toy or blanket for their little one to hold during contractions, just as a way of reminding themselves of the purpose behind their pain.
3. Consider investing in a doula! Studies have shown that when a mother has the continuous care, support, and simply presence of another woman with her, the duration of her labor was cut in half, and interventions and complications were significantly reduced as well! A doula is a well-trained, "trail-guide" of sorts who knows and is comfortable with what labor and birth look like. She is able to be a source of steady reassurance to a mom, in the midst of what could otherwise be an overwhelming flood of emotions and fear. Doulas are also experienced and prepared to help with pain management and relaxation techniques to turn a mother's fear into healthy and productive coping in order to ease her tension.
4. Lastly, remember that this isn't a dangerous or long-lasting pain! Each contraction will come in waves and then allow your body a rest in between. At most, labor will last for a few hours to a day and then you will be holding your beautiful baby. Think of the pain as a productive avenue that is bringing you and your child together- and as such, it's not something to be feared or avoided, but embraced!